Home > Episode Reviews, Fractale > Fractale Episodes 4 and 5 – Her Disappearing Theme

Fractale Episodes 4 and 5 – Her Disappearing Theme

Well, last week I wished for things to pick up, and they did. Episode four sees rebellious priestess Phryne captured by the Granitz family twice, Granitz village raided by the Temple (in search of Phryne) and a fierce motorized tricycle chase through the show’s pastoral landscape as Phryne and Clain struggle to avoid the Temple.

Episode five brings offers more background information on Phryne and the rambunctious digital persona she smuggled out of the Temple, Nessa. It also creates some new relationship dynamics between the main characters. You can’t say that nothing happens in these episodes.

So am I satisfied? Of course not.

Nessa isn't happy that Clain wants to help Phryne. Got that?

First off, those new relationship dynamics I alluded to earlier are just that all of the main female characters have a crush on Clain, the main male character. Nessa instantly dislikes Phryne, then gets pouty when Clain goes back to rescue her. This leads to episode 5’s ridiculous excuse for a plot, which consists of Nessa playing hide and seek because Clain is paying too much attention to Phryne, tampering with the controls of the airship everyone is on, endangering everyone’s lives, until she’s discovered and no one seems angry.

Clain has had a weird crush on Phryne ever since she jumped off an airplane in front of him, and it seems here that it might be reciprocated, as she finds in him someone who likes her for herself, rather than because of her unique status as the Grand Priestess’s daughter and “the key to the world.”

This lady also seems to have the hots for Clain, but I don't think she has a name

Even Enri is in on it, calling any interaction Clain has with a girl “perverted” to excuse her jealousy. She’s practically an archetypal tsundere.

Of these, Phryne and Clain have the most interesting relationship, with the way Phryne is slowly opening up to Clain and explaining what the heck is going on being the best part of these episodes. But I’m still annoyed that the hackneyed cliché of every single female character falling for the uninteresting male lead keeps showing up without comment, even in otherwise decent shows.

There's lots of romantic tension between Clain and Phryne

The situation here isn’t nearly as pandering as it normally is in anime, and it’s not entirely unnecessary. In fact, it’s one of the major conflicts in these two episodes. But it’s so desperately unoriginal that it can’t help but bring to mind a host of lesser shows and remind you how much Fractale has in common with them.

Even though the action has picked up, much of what’s going on still seems aimless. The show is setting up a huge conflict between the Temple and the terrorist group Lost Millennium over the fate of the Fractale system, but we still don’t really know the full extent of what Fractale does, or what is at play.

The Temple sends its army of Daleks after the rebels

Clain, for his part, seems eager to learn, but no one is interested in telling him. And without knowing what’s going on, his role as observer is mostly meaningless.

He seems to have little to do with the shape of the story. In fact, the captain of the Granitz’s airship spends a decent chunk of episode five trying to haze him into just leaving. While he has skills with modern computer systems the Luddite Granitz family lacks, he has no skin in the game unfolding in front of him. He’s just a casual observer, caught between two extremes. As he’s loath to admit to anyone—even himself—he’s mostly in this to stay with Phryne.

Here are two middle-aged women stripping off Clain's pants. Not pictured: later, when they do the same to the loincloth underneath

So the show continues to reveal itself at its own, slow pace. At this point, however, I’m worried that it might last its entire 11 episode run before it can say everything it wants to say.

At least the animation is good. A-1 Pictures has always excelled at the technical aspects of animation, and this show is no exception. The animation has a nice fluidity to it, as opposed to the jerkiness of lower quality series.

I think everybody knew from the beginning that this pastoral backdrop needed at least one thrilling chase scene

The action scenes move at a good clip, but even the slower scenes are lively and smoothly animated, with plenty of nice touches, like the hair and clothes on clotheslines whipping around in the airship’s observation deck.

It makes you wonder what some of the great shows of the 80s could have done with modern technology. But that’s a meaningless question: every crew makes do with what they have. With Fractale, we just have to hope that what A-1 and Ordet have up their sleeves is going to be good.

You can watch these episodes here.

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